So, you’ve been working hard and saving money to buy that phone, Laptop, Washing Machine etc. that you’ve been lusting after for the longest time. You finally have enough cash and it’s time to feel good about yourself by placing an order for the item on your favorite online shopping platform. Don’t Buy Anything Online Before You Read This
Before you click that “Order Now “button, it’s hugely important to do your due diligence before giving your hard earned money away.
Have online shopping platforms become greedy? Or is it a case of negligence?
It used to be that online shopping platforms had mechanisms of protecting their online shoppers from counterfeit products (they still do, on paper anyway.) Although sometimes lapses did occur, there was a deliberate effort to protect their customers from unscrupulous merchants. You would rarely come across fake products when browsing their apps or websites.
But sadly today, it seems every Tom, Dick and Harry can just sign up on these platforms and start selling their fake products to innocent Kenyans without being properly vetted.
Browsing these Apps and websites today has become the same as taking your chances on River Road or Luthuli Avenue. That’s a pretty bold claim to make, but I’ll make it anyway, because it’s the truth.
A TRUE STORY
The story I’m about to tell you really saddened me, and is what inspired me to write this post.
My best friend, a music junkie, was looking to buy some nice, quality headphones. He first tried shopping around Luthuli Avenue but all he came across were the fake imitations of popular brands, so he decides to shop online, having the confidence that these online shopping apps couldn’t possibly be allowing the same merchants selling imitations on Luthuli Avenue to sell the same fakes on their platform.
He ordered for a set, but to his utter shock and amazement, what was delivered was the same imitation headphones he was being sold on Luthuli! He came to me and showed me the headphones and I indeed confirmed they were imitations.
My friend was so disappointed that he ended up spending even more money by purchasing the original headphones at the official dealer store of that particular brand.
Why are Online Shopping Platforms seemingly throwing quality standards out the window?
The answer is simple, COMPETITION.
You see, as is common in every other field, online shopping Apps haven’t been shielded from the negative effects of stiff competition. As more Apps and websites join the market, there is pressure to enlist more merchants onto their platforms. More merchants (even the ones selling cheap fake products) means more commissions on sales.
Let’s look at some simple steps you can take to protect yourself when purchasing online.
1. CHECK THE PRODUCT MANUFACTURER’S WEBSITE
Once you identify a product you’d like to purchase, the first step should be to visit that product’s manufacturer website. You want to make sure that the product exists in the website catalog and that the product specifications on the website match those listed on online selling platforms.
While on the website, pay attention to the product’s official images and if you can, download and save them on your phone / PC. This can be handy for comparing the product you’re buying online with the product’s official images.
2. CHECK PRODUCT REVIEW WEBSITES
Simply put, Product review websites are a Godsend! I’d recommend never purchasing a product until you visit a few review sites and checking out their reviews on the product(s) you’re intending to buy.
There’s literally a review site for any product you can think of online, written by industry professionals who give their opinion on the product after using and testing it for some time.
Do a google search of the product you want to buy and some product reviews from these sites should show up on the search results. Some popular review sites include GSM ARENA and Phone Arena (for Mobile Phones).
3. READ AND PAY ATTENTION TO USER REVIEWS
Many review sites will have a section where actual users who have previously purchased the product you want to buy give their comments/views based on their experiences after using the product. Taking note of these responses can not only save you money, but a lot of agony.
You may find that the user satisfaction is quite low among existing users. Generally, check the number of good user reviews and take note of common issues raised by users (in the case of a Phone for example, you may find that many users are complaining about Bluetooth/Wi-Fi functionalities being problematic on the device, or sub-par camera quality etc.)
4. CHECK YOUTUBE
Yes, You Tube was not meant just for watching your favorite cat videos! (As good and immensely satisfying as they are…) There are a lot of review channels with high quality comprehensive video reviews of virtually any product out there.
From Electronics to Kitchen ware, chances are someone’s made a video about it on You Tube! This is especially good because you get to actually see the product in action, which inspires confidence when finally deciding to purchase the product online.
5. COMPARE PRICE
You really do get what you pay for, yes it’s that simple! Compare the listed product price on various platforms and the recommended price on the official website (if listed). Review sites also usually list the product’s estimated retail price.
A big variance in price should be alarming (read Fake!). Whereas minor price differences don’t automatically indicate that the product is genuine (more on this in a future article), you’re likely to come across a slight difference in price by different sellers on online shopping websites.
6. CHECK SELLER’S REPUTATION / RATINGS
Basically, online selling platforms operate like a middleman, connecting sellers to potential clients on one platform over the internet. Think of it like your typical marketplace only that it’s online.
These sellers have accounts with the online shopping platform and their shop ratings are usually available on the platform. Click on the product and look for seller information and rating (usually listed after the product information)
It is good practice to view the ratings of these stores based on shoppers who have actually purchased from them on that specific platform.
Five star ratings for example, would indicate that customers who purchased from them had a good customer experience and overall product satisfaction. Low ratings should worry you.
7. CHECK PRODUCT WARRANTY / RETURN POLICY
Check the warranty period listed by the seller. Ideally you should only purchase products with a 1 year warranty period or a favorable return policy in case of defective products.
With these simple tips, you should be able to make an informed decision before making purchases online.
NB: whereas there are merchants on Luthuli Avenue and River Road selling fake products, this post in no way suggests that ALL vendors in those same streets are guilty of selling fake products. There are merchants on those same places that are earning an honest living by selling genuine merchandize. It is upon you to utilize the tips you’ve learnt from this post to differentiate the real from the fake.
Got any questions or comments about this topic? Have you been a victim of greedy merchants selling online? Let me know in the comments section below!
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